Bonsall Unified School District (BUSD), with a 2018 graduating class of just 57, is wrong to ask voters to build it a new campus via the $38M Bond Measure EE.
BUSD cannot afford to operate its existing campuses scattered from Oceanside to Pala. After running deficits for over seven years, California issued BUSD a “qualified certification” stating BUSD “may not meet its financial obligations for fiscal year 2017–18 or 2018–19”.
District-wide, BUSD has 124 classrooms (including a new state-of-the-art high school with two expensively-outfitted laboratories). 2,500 are enrolled with 2,300 students on campus daily. At 25-27 students/classroom, BUSD’s 124 classrooms can accommodate 3,100-3,348 students.
There is no capacity crisis at BUSD, just an inefficient use of space and taxpayer dollars.
While BUSD attempts to ignore reality, voters should not. Among others, the Republican Party of San Diego County and the Fallbrook Democratic Club both recommend voting NO on Measure EE.
In an attempt to justify its folly, BUSD is using overly aggressive enrollment projections but we’ve seen wild projections before. In 2005 the Village News reported on a study predicting a doubling of enrollment at Fallbrook Union High School (FUHS) from 3,000 to 6,000 by 2025 (“Fallbrook High School has ambitious plans to accommodate growing enrollment”). At the time, FUHS was pushing taxpayers to support a second campus to open in 2008. This high school was to be built on the exact same parcel BUSD wants to build on via Measure EE. FUHS’s lost similar ballot measure four times and the predictions were completely wrong. FUHS’s enrollment fell to 2,071 students by 2015 and hovers around 2,000 today, a 30% decline.
In 2014, BUSD predicted its enrollment would double from 2,500 students to 5,000 by 2020, with the proposed Lilac Hills Ranch mega-development contributing fully half of the projected increase. (Lilac Hills Ranch’s 1,700 housing units would be on open space zoned for 110 homes located within the Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District but BUSD offered to move its boundaries and take all the students.) After losing at the ballot box (2016’s Measure B), Lilac Hills Ranch stalled but other developments were built. However, even after expanding its programs from K-8 to K-12 and opening the doors to a brand new state-of-the-art high school in 2016, BUSD’s enrollment didn’t budge. It remains at about 2,500 students today.
BUSD now predicts 709 new units will generate 530 students District-wide (21% increase) of which 110 will choose BUSD’s high school (31% increase) in just one to five years. These are truly aggressive numbers. For comparison, Poway, North County San Diego’s fastest growing District, experienced only a 10% increase over a decade.
Taxpayers have built (and maintain) 32 public high schools in the area surrounding Bonsall Unified School District. Another 15 private high schools, along with home schooling and new digital learning options, compete to serve the varied needs of the region’s children.
There are 7,798 housing units within the Bonsall Unified School District. A 10% increase (about 780 housing units) would generate a corresponding 10% increase in the students enrolled in BUSD’s programs (250 including 35 in high school). A 20% increase in housing units (1,560) would generate about 500 students with 70 in high school, certainly not enough to support building a large new high school and certainly not in Fallbrook on a site the voters have rejected five times. Measure EE is Attempt #6 for this site.
BUSD’s developer-generated projections are clearly overly aggressive and so are its budget projections. BUSD’s 2018-2019 budget overestimated revenue by $850,000 on 100 students who never materialized. Without major cuts, this puts BUSD on track for another year of deficit spending.
Today’s reality is smaller families started later in life. As a result, California predicts schools are entering a long-term declining enrollment trend. While its projections are overstated, BUSD’s actual enrollment figures already reflect this shift with substantial declines at the elementary school level for the 2018-2019 school year.
Beware ballot measures for new schools mega-developers want to offer, with little cost to them, their potential clients. These campaigns commonly use fuzzy math in an attempt to convince voters to accept additional taxes to build and maintain unnecessary brick and mortar.
Community advocate Teresa Platt states, “Fuzzy math has no place in education or infrastructure. For the BUSD Board, I am voting for Dr. Sylvia Tucker and Roger Merchat ONLY, and voting NO on Measure EE.”